Vogee quits, cites bullying
June 17, 2008 · Updated 10:45 AM
Citing lack of support, low pay and persistent harassment by one member of the San Juan County Board of Commissioners, Permit Center Deputy Building Official Jan Vogee last week announced her resignation.
Vogee will quit her county post to take a similar job on the mainland that offers higher salary and better benefits. She begins March 1.
In her resignation letter, Vogee stated that intimidation by a county commissioner who she did not name prompted search for employment elsewhere. She has worked nearly six years for the county, more than two at the top post of the building division.
Vogee submitted her resignation Jan. 29 in four-page letter which stated that one commissioner bullied, harassed and threatened her over rotating the schedules of building inspectors. Under the schedule, inspectors were cross-trained and rotated assignments between islands. That commissioner objected to the change in operations, she said.
The commissioner apparently was John Evans. He told The Sounder, On Orcas, my phone has been ringing off the hook with contractors, architects and electricians who want stability with inspection schedules. Im very much opposed to the rotating schedule proposal (imposed just after Christmas) and Ive been very up-front about that. It made no sense to me at all.
That schedule moved Orcas building inspector Toni Hermanson to Friday Harbor, and building department personnel from Lopez and San Juan doing inspections on Orcas.
Evans said the rotation schedule had hourly employees spending too much time riding ferries. He said the schedules made no sense, given the recent budget cuts.
But the Orcas commissioner also said he had a lot of respect for Vogee and is disappointed that she resigned. I hate to lose Jan, he said. She has done an excellent job for the county.
Orcas Island contractor Terry Gillespie was less charitable. He said Vogee wasnt liked at all by local contractors, and he backed Evans position on scheduling, saying it made no sense. Gillespie noted that the San Juan Building Association, of which he is a member, asked the county to assign Hermanson back to Orcas full-time. Gillespie described Hermanson as tough, but fair.
Vogees boss, Permit Center Director Grant Beck, said hell miss her. Jan has a knack for seeing the big picture; she has the technical knowledge and also understands its practical application in the field. Shes done an excellent job and I dont think well find someone who can replace her.
With Vogees departure, Beck anticipates delays in building plan reviews at the office and a backlog of inspections in the field. Employees vacations and training sessions will have to be postponed while her position remains vacant, Beck said.
Beck said the proposed rotation schedule has been scrapped due to departmental budget cuts. The building division also lost one employee, services were trimmed, and work assignments shuffled. Three senior staff members have left during the last two years and the position of land-use administrator that had remained vacant was eliminated with budget cuts.
County wage scales continue to make filling vacant positions with qualified people difficult, said San Juan Island Commissioner Darcie Nielsen.
Im not happy about the situation, Nielsen said. Jans departure is going to be a huge loss.
Vogee proposed a series of changes for the permit center. They include provisions prohibiting elected officials from interfering individually with permit center activities or personnel issues; increased benefits for county employees; authorizing the county Prosecuting Attorney to investigate possible improper or illegal conduct by county elected officials in center activities, and matching the $60,000 salary offer at her new job.
Beck was expected yesterday to seek the commissions approval to post two positions to fill vacancies at the permit center, Evans said. One will be deputy building official.
Scott Rasmussen reports on regional government and education for sanjuanjournal.com and The Journal of the San Juan Islands, sister publications of islandssounder.com and The Islands Sounder. He can be reached at (360) 378-4191 ext. 13 or email.